Sunday, June 1, 2008
Old Mother Hen Traditional Herbal Soup 十全老母鸡小吃店
The Batu Pahat gang strikes again. This time, lured by tales of crispy pork lard topped K.L. style dark Hokkien mee and exotic stir-fried fallopian tubes, we headed to this little shop in Geylang that's a bit of a makanguru insider's secret (see Makansutra thread here). When I first arrived, I was quite taken aback. The shop was even more "old-school" and dingy than I expected and it felt like I had entered another country/decade. However, super-friendly owner Jimmy immediately makes you feel welcome with his cheery exuberance. He gently helped us select their signature dishes and made recommendations for the freshest fish.
First of the dishes to arrive was this huge platter of KL-style dark Hokkien noodles (S$12, medium portion). Oh yes, we requested for extra crispy pork lard. The truly dark gravy was a fairly close rendition of the Malaysian version. We felt this was slightly better than the one served at Big Eater Seafood. The pork lard here is less crispy though but some may prefer it that way. It also didn't have any strong porky taste that may turn others off.
Next up was our "adventure" dish. Fallopian tubes or 生肠 (of the piggy variety) stir-fried (signature style, S$12, medium portion) in a sweetly spicy sauce with dried shrimp, chilies, onions and spring onions. Southernoise had actually tried this before (this is his second visit) and he highly recommended it to us. It was indeed good. Delightfully crunchy, the springy texture provides that coveted mouthfeel that the Chinese prize. The chopped tubes themselves are quite mild-tasting, so they make a great base for carrying sauces. I've actually eaten this piggy part before but it was just called intestines when I had it. Probably a euphemism. Most people would likely recoil in horror at the mere suggestion of this body part being eaten. But I say, it makes full and very good use of the pig that died!
Onto something more regular. Tofu. Their signature homemade tofu (S$16, medium portion) is an excellent dish. The crisp, deep-fried skin gives way to silky soft insides. Savoury mince topping with dried shrimp, pork lard pieces and spring onions complete the delicious profile.
The fish was indeed very fresh today. Jimmy recommended the red grouper head (S$28 for 700g) instead of the patin fish, as our group is not too used to fish heads. The sauce is intensely flavourful, and I can only describe it as a very garlicky sambal that isn't very spicy-hot. Oh, the small, yellow, oblong slices scattered all over the fish we discovered were not pineapple but more fried pork lard!!!
Kailan presented two ways (S$12, medium portion) - the leaves are sliced fine and deep-fried until they resemble nori (dried seaweed) and then topped with pork floss. The bottom half is steamed with a garlic sauce sauce. It's too bad the kailan itself was a bit "old" and therefore too fibrous to be enjoyable.
This again is another one of their famous dishes. Claypot chicken rice (S$12) that's been lauded as better than Geylang Claypot's further down the road. This is cooked to order on the charcoal and gas stoves at the front of the shop. Yes, the claypot yields a beautiful crust of crispy rice at the bottom, and has decent portions of chicken, chinese sausage, salted egg yolks and salted fish well-mixed in the rice. But perhaps because we were already quite full at this juncture, we felt the flavour was just so-so. Honestly, I prefer my own homecooked version (which you can try making too)!
The 十全 or "Complete Ten (herbal ingredients) Old Mother Hen Herbal Soup is a must-try since it's even in the name of the shop. As we aren't an adventurous lot with herbal soups, we took a small portion (S$6). This black concoction looks scary but is probably the most palatable 十全 herbal soup I've tasted. It's more sweet than bitter, with plenty of meaty umami in the opaque broth. The chicken itself was stewed til soft, and meat falling off the bone.
We actually saw Jimmy trot across the road to buy a watermelon earlier during the meal. Lo and behold, when we finished eating, he presented us a whimsically carved platter of fruits, compliments of the house. This again, is an oft-forgotten, old-school gesture of appreciation whenever a table chalks up an adequately sizeable bill.
All in all, not a bad meal for six costing just S$105 (about S$17.50 each) including drinks (no alcohol, of course). Like most cze-char places, there's no service charge or GST.
That's Jimmy standing in the background (third from left) with his helpers, preparing for the day. This shop is also just next to the coffeeshop housing the Geylang Hakka Lei Cha Fan (Thunder Rice Tea)! Old Mother Hen opens til quite late (1.30am) but fortunately they are located on the foodie side of Geylang, not the "entertainment" side.
You can hop over to Keropokman's blog and Southernoise's blog to see what they have to say on this outing's food. DancingBlueSeal also went there (before us) twice. You can also see NinjaHK's photos here and Umami's very early post on the claypot chicken rice, showing step-by-step how it's done.
Old Mother Hen Traditional Herbal Soup 十全老母鸡小吃店
136 Sims Ave (between Lorong 17 and 19)
Open daily 11am - 2.30pm; 5pm - 1.30am
Tel: 9128-2793 (Jimmy's handphone)
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